Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report. We publish weekly excerpts from the association, which keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the town. The newsletter electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at www.vailhomeowners.com.
There are some analysts saying that Vail cannot be sustained indefinitely on special events to feed its economic diet. Other resort competitors have caught on and are rapidly emulating Vail’s success. As a consequence, there may be a need to shift toward events that attract high value customers whose numbers put less of a strain on the community’s supporting infrastructure.
The goal of having more total days of tourism throughout the year is edging upward in the off-seasons. The quandary for many businesses is whether to stay open during the down times. There are synergies to be gained if there are more businesses opened than closed. But there has as yet to be an economically compelling, overarching business model that can deliver enough customers for a wide variety of businesses to be able to cover their operational overhead expenses during the off-seasons.
Much has been made of the vacant Bridge Street storefronts with papered-over windows. Some of the shuttered spaces are waiting for the right tenant. There are others where the landlords want zoning changes so that they can make a go of it. The town of Vail is reluctant to downgrade the use of any space that generates sale tax revenues. Coming from some of the businesses is the perennial complaint that their landlords want too much for their leases. Some forward-leaning Bridge Street merchants are investing in the expansion of their businesses. Others say quality customers will always find their way to a business that offers quality service and products.
The high lease cost of commercial space was supposed to have been solved by the Vail Renaissance, which, through zoning changes, increased the quantum amount of available inventory to drive down costs, by increasing the supply.
There are analysts suggesting that there is plenty of commercial space. What is missing, they say, is the appropriate mix of retail and restaurants. They worry about the trend that some smaller businesses, which cater to the carriage trade, are not fully seasonal, making their return on product lines for only a portion of the summer and winter seasons. It would be mutually supportive for all businesses if these smaller specialized enterprises provided a broader mix of products that drew in customers throughout the entire season.
Non-resident property owners and returning destination guests look forward to new businesses as well as relying on those that are familiar and dependable. Economic development planners could make a further contribution to improving the business of doing business by reporting on the trends in what Vail’s domestic and global competition is moving toward in terms of mix, presentation, services and neighborhood compatibility. Planners also need to take into account that Vail and its mountain operations are quickly approaching full capacity. Vail has already established itself as one of the premier resorts in North America. The challenge now is to manage that success for a healthy and vibrant future.